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Week in Review/Week in Preview

The weeks are flying by, and the good times keep on coming. I hope you're getting into the holiday spirit and embracing the chilly weather (because, honestly, there's no real getting away from it, so why not embrace it?). Without further ado, it's time to review and preview.

Week in Review

  • Chemo Round 5 -- there's something pretty exciting about getting five rounds of chemo under my belt. Five is a substantial amount of anything, right? I'm incredibly happy with my ability to take this chemo in stride (and I take pretty quick strides). Had a great time at USC on Monday -- big hugs from my dear Dr. Lenz, the best nurse at the Day Hospital overseeing the process, and a lovely black bean and cheese burrito delivered to me by the hubby while I marinated in the cancer-killing meds. Showed chemo who was boss by going to see the new Harry Potter movie with Will and Rhett afterwards.
  • Got in the holiday spirit at OMM on Tuesday during our annual Day of Giving holiday party. I had a blast hanging out with my wonderful colleagues, and met some new great folks who follow the blog. Tim and I hosted the karaoke contest and sang a couple of songs ("Hit Me Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears and Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love to You"). Our talents were rewarded when we won a $50 gift card for "Best Duet" for the second year in a row. What can I say? Timmy and I are crooners.
  • Took time on Wednesday and Thursday to relax and recenter myself. The last couple of weeks, especially my birthday week, were filled with activity and less sleep than usual, so it was time to get back on track. Slept lots, rested in bed with lovely television (I'm a big fan of I Shouldn't Be Alive), painted, got excellent back rubs from my dad, and cuddled with Will and Winston.
  • Went to a screening of The Kids Are All Right with Aymee on Wednesday night -- loved the movie and loved the company.
  • Hit the gym all week, of course. Also went on a couple little jogs with my mom and Winston. Focused on winding myself, because that's what Ilse Sugarbaker says I need to do to prepare for surgery. It's a bit of a challenge because I'm in darn good shape, but I focused on pushing myself that much harder to the point of panting. It felt great.
  • Celebrated the holidays even more with O'Melveny's Latino Attorney group (we call ourselves OLA -- clever, right?). Enjoyed Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles, bonded with some of my fellow Latinos at OMM, and had some delicious enchiladas.
  • Acupuncture with Mary Ellen on Friday afternoon, which was exactly what I needed to feel refreshed and rejuvenated after this last round of chemo.
  •  Worked on the book on Saturday and made excellent progress. Truly inspired to keep writing. Took a break from writing to go to the movies -- saw The Fighter and loved it. Christian Bale did an excellent job, and I always relish a story about a person that beats the odds with sheer determination and will.
  • Capped off the week by having tea and all the fixins with Aymee and Nick at h.wood in Hollywood on Sunday afternoon. Decided to continue the fun with a relaxing massage at Ra Organic Spa with my mom afterwards.
  • Took all my vitaimins, got all my Lovenox shots, drank lots of water, meditated, and killed cancer all while humming holiday tunes.

Week in Preview

  • It's Christmas week and, man, I need to do some shopping. Planning on spending some serious time at the Westfield Mall in Century City and The Grove.
  • Holiday Concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall -- Will and I are going to see the Blind Boys of Alabama on Monday night. Should be awesome.
  • Pumping iron, jogging in the rain, and continuing to make my body into a strong, efficient machine.
  • Watching my Blue Devils hit the court again (they were off last week because of finals) -- expecting some solid wins.
  • Lunches with some of my favorite friends -- Sabrina, Aymee, and Meghan (home from law school in D.C. for the holidays).
  • Soaking up the holiday season with some Christmas movies and music. Hot apple cider might also be in my future.
  • Christmas Eve celebration at my uncle and aunt's house. Looking forward to bonding with the family.
  • Christmas!!! Spending the morning at my parents' house, and the afternoon/evening at my place. So excited. Christmas is almost as good as April Fool's Day. Okay, okay -- it's tied with April Fool's Day.
  • Painting more "Love Life" paintings, working on the book and blog, and making playlists on my iTunes for my upcoming travels.
  • Continue taking all my vitamins, getting all my Lovenox shots, drinking lots of water, meditating, eating healthily, and killing cancer cells.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!! And an early Merry Christmas from WunderGlo!


On Writing

I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and focused. Killing cancer is a full-time job, and your favorite cancer-warrior is in the office. 

Specifically, I wanted to spend this rainy L.A. day working on my book, which I've too-often neglected for other, more extroverted activities. Writing -- whether it be for the blog or the book, or even while emailing an update on my status to a friend -- helps me reflect on my days while I'm living them, which is not easy to do (at least for me). But writing for the book specifically helps me focus on the last several months and how my experiences have shaped my mind and body today. It's almost like active meditation -- I'm centering my mind and taking time to reflect but, at the same time, creating something for myself and others. To me, that's the perfect combination. You know I'm not the best at not doing things.

Writing has always been a part of my life. I was an English major/History minor in college at Duke, and the many papers I wrote spanned various, thought-provoking (at least to me) subjects: the heroine Beatrice in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Ernest Hemingway's portrayal of women characters in his novels, violence against migrants at the U.S./Mexico border, the style and language invoked in the closing arguments of Atticus Finch in To Kill and Mockingbird and Johnny Cochran in the O.J. Simpson trial. As a litigator, writing is a daily activity -- from client letters to motions to dismiss to settlement agreements to emails to opposing counsel. 

But no writing has been as satisfying as the stuff I've done for the blog and the book. There is a real pleasure in simply speaking in my own voice, without pretense and with total honesty, about the incredibly personal but somewhat universal issue of living life to the fullest while fighting a deadly disease. I've loved every minute of the writing process -- from thinking about my subject, to forming my idea for how a post or chapter will go, to actually writing the thing. The fact that this writing has inspired and helped others just blows me away. It also keeps me inspired to keep on writing.

I made solid progress on the book this morning, and I plan to spend the rest of my day writing. If you want to find your favorite cancer blogger, I'll be at a local Starbucks, sipping on some chamomile tea, enjoying the London-like weather conditions, and typing away on my laptop. 



Coming Into My Own

Now that the cold sensitivity and the mild headache are long gone -- the only real side effects I've ever experienced during chemo (besides a loose stool or two) -- I can now say that I've successfully completed five rounds of chemo. Five rounds! Pretty incredible how time flies.

I got to experience one of my favorite feelings today -- that feeling where you know you've turned the corner and have beaten whatever it is

that's been making you feel less than capital. I used to experience this back in college when I'd have a particularly hard night of partying and struggled to shake that gross hangover feeling on the following day. When I did kick it, usually during the following afternoon, I was crazily happy and excited. My body won the battle and I felt like a champ. 

These days, the new "hard partying" comes every other Monday, requires no whiskey drinking, and does not end with a late-night meal with my friends. But it does carry with it the same "post-party" challenge -- to fight off the fatigue and bounce back to my old self.  

Effectively shaking off any trace of chemo-induced not-myselfness wasn't the only great thing I noticed about my body today. During my acupuncture session with Mary Ellen, I rested on my tummy and realized that it felt totally comfortable. No strange pressure, no weirdness, nothing. Totally normal. As if that same tummy wasn't cut open a couple of months ago. It was awesome.

Today, I reveled in my body's ability to heal itself. I thanked it in advance for its continuing hard work. Then I took it to the gym so it wouldn't get too full of itself.


On Snagging Sugarbaker

I've made mention of my future surgeon (captain of the "pick it out/pour it in" procedure) many times. What I haven't told you yet is how I wound up snagging Dr. Sugarbaker as my surgeon. 

When I first met with my oncologist, Dr. Lenz, we discussed the inevitability of this surgery (so long as the cancer remained only in my gut, which it has) and who I should seek out to do it. We discussed a couple of people including Dr. Andrew Lowy, a brilliant surgeon (also easy on the eyes if you know what I mean) who I met with early-on to discuss my options. We also discussed Dr. Sugarbaker, who pioneered the surgery and has been doing it longer than anyone.

In the end, I decided that I'd try for Sugarbaker first. The number of would-be patients banging down his door is plentiful, but I hoped that he'd accept me as his patient. Before I contacted Sugarbaker in earnest, I met with a surgeon at NIH just to make sure I was weighing all my options.

I really don't like the idea of weighing all my options, in general. I have a gut feeling about things and I go. I picked my college when I was 9 years old and I met my husband on the first day of college. Getting into Yale Law School didn't make me hesitate for a second about my decision to go to Stanford. And from the moment I walked into O'Melveny & Myers, I knew I wanted to practice law there. Honestly, looking at every single option and carefully weighing risks and benefits feels like a total waste of time to me. I know what I want and that's the end of it.

At the urging of my three nurses, I tried to be different when I chose my treatment plan. So I flew to Maryland with as open a mind as I could. Even though I was feeling like Lenz and Sugarbaker was my winning ticket, I met up with the NIH folks and was impressed with their professionalism and dedication to getting me cancer-free.

But I wasn't changing my mind. The NIH folks suggested surgery first, before any chemo, and I just didn't like that idea. Neither did Dr. Lenz from our first meeting, and given how fancy-pants he is, I figured that going with his gut instinct and mine was the right thing to do. The problem was, I still hadn't even spoken to Sugarbaker and my three nurses really liked what the NIH surgeon was saying, especially his promise to operate. I was definitely feeling a little bit of pressure, as my parents and husband seemed to be pulling in a different direction than me.

I emailed Sabrina, one of my closest friends, a partner at OMM, and the person responsible for my meeting with Dr. Lenz a few days earlier. Before I could even finish my Ben & Jerry's (I figured I deserved a little ice cream given the gravity of the big decision ahead of me), she had already called Dr. Sugarbaker's office. She begged Ilse Sugarbaker (Dr. Sugarbaker’s wife and office manager) to look at my pathology report, and even though that's generally never how the Sugarbaker acceptance process works, Ilse agreed to show the good surgeon my report to get his take on what my treatment should be. (How much do we love Sabrina? A lot.)

By the time we got back to our hotel, I hadn't heard from Ilse and was getting a little antsy, so I gave her a call. I offered to drive over to Dr .Sugarbaker's office to meet him, or her, or anyone, and she rejected my slightly crazed offer. She did promise to call me the minute Dr. Sugarbaker had given her his opinion of the chemo/surgery plan.

True to her word, Ilse called me back about 30 minutes later. She told me that my treatment path was crystal clear to Dr. Sugarbaker -- 3 months of chemo, one month of rest, surgery with Dr. Sugarbaker or at some other NCI affiliate (that's National Cancer Institute for those of you not well-versed in all things cancer), then another three months of chemo. She went on to explain how this was called the "sandwich" method because the surgery was "sandwiched" between 3 months of chemo, and before she could continue, I quickly stopped her.

"Wait a second...did you say 'surgery with Dr. Sugarbaker'? Does that mean Dr. Sugarbaker has accepted me as a patient?"

Ilse responded, "Yes, we'd love to have you as a patient."

I felt a wave of joy and relief rise in my body. Dr. Sugarbaker had accepted me as a patient. My choice was clear. And everything was going to be okay.


Getting Back to Basics

The last week or so has been filled with multi-day celebrations, out-of-town visitors, roller coasters, birthday cake, pizza, and late nights. I've had a blast, but now, before Christmas in L.A. and New Year's in New York, it's time to get back to basics.

The most important of these self-care basics is rest.

I'll admit it -- I haven't been giving myself adequate time to rest lately. The excitement of my days compels me to bolt out of bed after 7ish hours of sleep, and I fill my days with so much activity that there's really no time to nap. I've loved every second of those crazy busy, very fun days, but I'm forcing myself to slow down and remember that cancer loves a tired person.

I've relaxed for most of the day. The gloomy weather here in L.A. has provided the perfect backdrop for my PJs-all-day attire, and my bed has been especially comfy. Don't get me wrong -- I feel great and could absolutely go at full blast if I wanted to, but I don't need to do that every day to prove to myself that I can.

So much of this cancer-beating battle is mental. Feeling good and knowing that I'm doing well is the fuel that keeps me going. And feeling rested is the foundation of feeling good. Sometimes, because I live for living life to the max, I forget how important rest is. But I remembered, and that's progress.

So, without further ado, I'm going to get back to relaxing. This next yawn and rejuvenating stretch is for you.